Sandberg Bluegrass (Secunda)

The Sandberg Bluegrass (Secunda) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Sandberg Bluegrass (Secunda) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Sandberg Bluegrass (Secunda) will reach up to 1.4 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Sandberg Bluegrass (Secunda) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -36°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Livestock: Early spring grazing by cattle or sheep is one of the primary uses of Sandberg bluegrass seedings. In adapted areas, there is no other grass that provides an equal volume of early spring forage. It makes good spring calving or lambing pasture.

Wildlife: Upland game birds, especially pheasants, choose fields of Sandberg bluegrass for nesting sites because Sandberg bluegrass has more early spring growth than other dryland grasses and the basal leaves provide good shade.

Woodland: Sandberg bluegrass has been successfully used for reseeding burned-over forest lands in pine forests of the West. It has a remarkable ability to produce roots which effectively suppress weed growth.

General Characteristics

Sandberg bluegrass is one of the native bluegrasses and is an important component of the sagebrush grassland vegetation in the western United States. It is a medium-sized cool season bunchgrass with numerous fine basal leaves 8 to 16 inches long. These leaves are a smooth, deep blue green and are folded with keel-shaped tips typical of bluegrasses. This long-lived perennial reaches 2 to 4 feet in height. Its inflorescence is a narrow panicle up to 8 inches long. It has a strong fibrous root system but will occasionally develop short rhizomes. The flower spikelets do not have a web of hairs at the base, unlike Kentucky bluegrass, which does.

Sandberg bluegrass begins growth early in spring, before crested wheatgrass, and matures in early summer unless moisture is sufficient to keep it green all summer. In this respect it is the most persistent of all the cool season grasses.

Required Growing Conditions

This native bluegrass thrives on a variety of soils from moderately coarse sands to fine clays. It will tolerate coarse sands and dense clays, but will not grow under saline conditions and can tolerate weakly acid or alkaline soils. Well-drained mountain loams are a good place to look for Sandberg bluegrass stands.

Although it grows in moist conditions (15 to 20 inch precipitation zone) it will not tolerate early spring flooding, high water tables, or poor drainage. It does best with cool winter moisture above 7,000 feet. It has excellent cold tolerance but does not do as well as other cool season grasses during drought. Its tolerance to shade and grazing is moderate but its ability to withstand burning is very low except when dormant.

Sandberg bluegrass is distributed throughout the West. For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Cultivation and Care

Seed of Sandberg bluegrass should be drilled at 1/4 to 3/4 inches deep depending upon soil type: 1/4 inch for fine, moist soils, 1/2 inch for medium textures, and 3/4 inch for coarse or dry soils. On semiarid lands, 3 pounds pure live seed (PLS) per acre is adequate. Harsh or erosive sites require doubling of the seeding rate as does broadcast seeding.The seed should be planted 2 months prior to the most reliable precipitation: usually early spring, late summer or late fall depending upon the area. When seeding in spring it is advisable to plant as soon as possible since high soil temperatures will put the seedlings into dormancy. Prechilling will improve germination of the seed. Seedling vigor is moderate to good for a bluegrass. It does not respond significantly to irrigation and gives only moderate response to nitrogen applications. It is weakly compatible to seeding with other cool season species. It can be seeded with other grasses, forbs, legumes, or shrubs. Weed control may be needed.

General Upkeep and Control

Sandberg bluegrass has good palatability to livestock in spring and fall and to deer in the spring. It has excellent palatability to elk all year. Cattle prefer Sandberg bluegrass in the spring and it should be grazed when it reaches eight inches in height. Livestock graze Sandberg bluegrass in the vegetative

stage, but avoid it when headed. Livestock should be removed while there is still enough moisture in the ground to allow regrowth before plants go dormant. Regrowth can be grazed after the plants turn green in the fall, but a 6-inch stubble should be left.

Overgrazing and severe trampling are injurious to native stands of this grass and without proper protective grazing, a range will deteriorate rapidly. New seedlings are easily pulled up by grazing animals and, therefore, should not be grazed until the stands are more than 2 years old and are sufficiently well-rooted to withstand grazing. Spring and fall grazing are recommended. When properly managed, Sandberg bluegrass will compete with cheatgrass.

Pests and Potential Problems The primary pests of Sandberg bluegrass are grasshoppers, jackrabbits, and rodents. Diseases include leaf and stem rusts and stem maggots.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) ‘Sherman’ (OR). Seed can be obtained from most commercial seed stores.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 1.4
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -36
Soil Depth for Roots 10
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–8 pH
Precipitation Range 8–8 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 10
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA